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Are We Heading For A ‘Mental Health Pandemic’?

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December 16, 2020

mental health pandemic

Have you been feeling anxious about the stability of your job in recent months? The stop-start continue notion has become quite common to us, but that doesn’t mean it’s become any easier to deal with. Instead, the mental repercussions we’re now facing leaves us wondering if a post-COVID-era will involve a mental health pandemic.  

What Does The Data Show?

A study conducted by Mario Mazza presents data collated from 402 COVID-19 patients either treated at home or in hospital. Fifty-five percent of said patients were found to have at least one psychiatric disorder; including PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and OCD. Whilst this might be surprising to many of us; medics and professionals are not astounded by these findings. With a direct effect on our central nervous system, COVID-19 diagnoses accompanied by psychiatric issues are emerging with each new development.

That’s not to say those who have contracted the virus are the only ones to suffer from mental health issues because they are not. Out of step with ordinary life, our minds are available to roam free, away from distractions and everyday routines. 

A recent study undergone by Paychex’s, out of 1017 employees who declared their mental health suffered during the pandemic, 54% expressed they also didn’t want to talk to their managers about it. Thirty percent of the surveyed staff feared expressing their mental health issues with their boss would lead to them being furloughed or worse. Whilst 29% feared it could cost them a promotion. 

What Does This Mean For Our Mental Health Post-COVID? 

2020 has been a year full of uncertainty and anxiety. News of a vaccine may be alleviating a lot of our concerns and worries, but does this mean mental health issues will improve? Not necessarily. With many restrictions, rules and regulations still in place surrounding social lives and workplaces, and set to continue in 2021; the situation brings with it a whole host of new challenges. 

Rewiring Of Our Brains

Many of us; in workplaces, social circles and neighbourhoods talk about a return to normality, but will the psychological impact of living through a pandemic change us forever? Not only are we afraid to cough in public, we fear when someone else does. Uncertainty plays on our mind while we try to return to ‘normal’, except the feeling of normality becomes more and more askew as the days pass.

Social interaction isn’t what it once was. We no longer have the freedom or ability to hug our loved ones. Rather we’re confined to ourselves and our world only. Where we once asked for a recommendation from the waiter, we’re now forced to order food from our mobiles and stand at arm’s length from one another to queue in the supermarket.

Changes in behaviour are becoming more apparent. Some are going without touch at all leading to increasing levels of loneliness and depression, whilst others are continuing as normal in a bid to remove any negativity surrounding the situation.

Increased Alcohol and Drug Usage

Living through a pandemic has accelerated the use of substances. In both instances intake has increased; in terms of the number of average drinks as well as rates of excessive drinking or binge drinking. With no slow of the coronavirus appearing just yet, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be at the bottom of a bottle for many. Whilst others have formed habits by taking drugs to treat anxiety, such as Xanax.

Such trends may continue for a few years after COVID-19 has been eradicated. Continued drug and alcohol usage can lead to an increase in drug addiction and alcoholism to the world’s most vulnerable if left undetected and untreated.

Heightened OCD

Anxiety disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are likely to continue in a post-pandemic era. Fear of catching the virus through germs in public spaces has exacerbated symptoms for those who suffer from OCD. In addition, those with pre-existing anxiety diagnoses or known to suffer from stress have begun to experience symptoms of OCD during the outbreak.

Whilst the country continues through a revolving door of lockdowns and the loosening and tightening of restrictions, individuals have expressed experiences of new mental health issues. This includes depression and agoraphobia; an anxiety disorder causing dislike to certain surroundings. 

Mental Health Issues in the Younger Generations

Children and adolescents are often seen as carefree and fearless. But the whirlwind of 2020 has left many facing difficulty in processing the events we have encountered. It is difficult for children to understand why they can’t play at the park with their friends or why a plastic curtain has replaced human touch. 

COVID-19 has dehumanised interaction across the world, for now. At stages throughout the year, we felt we were in the situation together, however younger generations feel particularly isolated and unable to sustain social bonds. 

This has resulted in increasing levels of social anxiety amongst children; whereby some children have not been able to see their friends since the start of the pandemic. 

Overstretched Support In Health Services

Life before COVID-19 saw an already overstretched mental health support system. So where does this leave us in the future? It will be difficult to treat the overwhelming number of those in need. Businesses needn’t make cutbacks in their mental health departments in a bid to reduce costs, rather this is where money and resources need to be spent. 

As an Employer What Can I Do?

As previously mentioned, many employees do not feel comfortable speaking with their managers about how they feel. Therefore, data presents the numbers of cases we are only aware of. There is nothing to say the aforementioned won’t and can’t be redeemed. With the right support and careful navigation, they can.

Mental health support at work needn’t cost your business a lot, rather there are many things you can do that won’t cost you a penny. We recently shared a number of ways you can support your businesses’ mental health, with no budget at all. 

Can we help? At Everymind, we’re on a mission to support, and normalise the conversation around mental health at work, through the use of technology. Think of us as a therapist in your pocket, as and when your employees need us. We’re currently offering a three-month free trial for any new clients who enquire before January 1st 2021. You can find out more information here

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